It’s all the rage now to create movies and shows where it’s you against your peers and how far does one go in order to survive. While the concept is nothing new, movies like THE HUNGER GAMES made killing your friends go mainstream and the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even Rob Zombie got into the game with his crowd funded 31, where carnies find themselves trapped in a nasty warehouse full of traps and deranged killer clowns. The scenarios vary from film to film, but the concept remains the same: kill or be killed.
In THE BELKO EXPERIMENT, 80 employees of Belko Industries find themselves locked up in their office building in the middle of Columbia. A voice plays on the unseen intercom informing the employees that they have to kill two of their coworkers. I’m not sure what world these people live in, because in the reality I live in where public shootings are a daily news item, I take an announcement like this seriously and wouldn’t laugh it off like many of the characters do. While there are a couple concerned individuals, the announcement is ignored and the consequences prove to be deadly. They quickly learn that some kind of game is at play and they are not all going to make it out alive.
The concept is riveting and proves to create a rather grim film where we get to witness how truly vicious our coworkers can be when lives are on the line. The deaths are brutal and extremely graphic I dare say for a movie that made it into the theater rather than VOD. It dares to take chances and allow audiences to be confused as to who we are to root for. In the end, ethics are at play as methods of survival involve no good deeds.
Now here’s where I feel BELKO falls short. While the characters are architypes and probably done purposely by those behind the experiment to see how one would react in this particular situation, I couldn’t tell you anyone’s name in the film. Some of the characters look too much alike and I found myself referring to people as “the girl who keeps hiding poorly” or “the stoner who keeps dumping all the water.” The movie starts out giving us a good amount showing off work interactions and relationships, giving a rather entertaining dose of character development. However, when the death count starts, these characters begin making some of the worst decisions and question those who actually make smart one. One of the most frustrating things in movies like these (THE PURGE franchise is extremely guilty) is that audiences are expected to believe that these are “real” people like us, but are exaggerated for the screen to the point where you find yourself rooting for the deaths of everyone involved. BELKO even falls victim to the most annoying cliche: a girl trying to hide makes too much noise because she just can’t contain her emotions. It’s 2017 and we’re still doing this.
With all that being said, I can’t hate too much on the movie. I had no idea what direction this was going and even though the ending isn’t groundbreaking, it was still worth the ride. The Blu-ray release delivers a crisp presentation, especially with 5.1 mix that embraces the craziness of a workplace gone awry. The best special feature on here is labeled as “Lee Hardcastle’s Survival Tips” which recreates some of the movie’s best movies in Claymation with a bloody twist. It’s seriously some funny stuff and worth a watch, even if you didn’t like the movie. Even with some frustrating moments, overall THE BELKO EXPERIMENT is one to visit at least once just so you can bring it up at the next work get-together.